The House Judiciary Committee’s grilling of Donald Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was a whole lot of fun if you’re the kind of person who enjoys crosstalk on those political chat shows or, even worse, on “Maury.”
Tuesday’s hearing, such as it was, will probably be best remembered — if remembered at all — for the exchanges between Lewandowski and House Judiciary Chairman (and official impeachment drum-beater) Jerrold Nadler. This, after all, was the first hearing in Nadler’s impeachment investigation into Trump, and Lewandowski certainly represents a key figure in the whole thing.
The former campaign manager played a significant role in the series of events described in the Mueller report, with investigators claiming that the president had told Lewandowski to meet with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and ask him to make a public statement imploring Mueller to limit his investigation.
If he didn’t, the report claimed, Sessions was to be fired. Lewandowski failed to deliver the message. (When Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson — he of the famous remark that Guam might “tip over” if the U.S. military presence there got too big — suggested he “chickened out,” Lewandowski responded to laughter: “I went on vacation.”)
Nadler began the hearings in typically balanced fashion by noting that the White House’s effort to limit the number of people who talked to the committee was a ‘shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity,’” according to NBC News.
“The White House is advancing a new, dangerous theory of crony privilege. It makes absolute immunity look good by comparison. Where are the limits?” Nadler said. “This is a cover-up, plain and simple.”
This is clearly a man interested in finding out the truth; in no way is this a biased witch-hunt or anything like that.
Lewandowski hit back during the hearings. He confirmed that he had told Sessions he wanted him to curtail the Russia investigation — but other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot of information.
That was partially to do with the fact that the former Trump campaign manager was “filibustering,” according to Nadler, partially because he would repeatedly ask for a copy of the Mueller report. (Fox News reported that this had “Democratic staff scrambling to find one.”
After Lewandowski asked where on a certain page it was that they were discussing, for instance, the chairman was reminded of the fact he had to start the clock, which showed how much time he had to question Lewandowski.
“No, I don’t have to start the clock when he’s filibustering,” a piqued Nadler said.
“Filibustering is a different — that’s across the hall in the Senate,” Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the committee, replied.
And then came the “are you still hitting your wife?” questions. Take this one from New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who asked whether Lewandowski was Trump’s “hitman, the bag man, the lookout, or all of the above?”
“I think I’m the good looking man, actually,” Lewandowski responded.
“You are not on the campaign trail yet,” Jeffries would say, referencing Lewandowski’s possible run for the New Hampshire Senate.
“This is the House Judiciary Committee. Act like you know the difference.”
That’s rather hard when you have men like Jeffries assuming, without much evidence, that Lewandowski was Trump’s “bag man.”
And then there was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee: “You are obviously here to block any reasonable inquiry into the truth or not of this administration,” she said.
Lewandowski, not without reason, said he couldn’t provide an answer because it wasn’t a question but a “rant.”
There were contentious back-and-forth exchanges between members of the committee. Collins, the Georgia Republican, seemed to be involved in a belligerent exchange (really, reporters could wear out their thesauruses finding synonyms for “contentious” regarding this hearing) with plenty of Democratic committee members.
Nadler, at one point, said that he had “been asked several times today whether the committee will hold you in contempt.” I don’t see how this is going to stick, inasmuch as Congress proved itself awfully contemptible during this hearing.
Lewandowski, for his part, seemed up to the task, at one point seeming to mock Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell — the California congressman who tried to ride gun control to a White House bid and failed spectacularly — as “President Swalwell.”
If you need another reason aside from this clip to call the committee contemptible, consider this snippet from NBC News: “A top Democratic House Judiciary Committee source told NBC News Tuesday that ‘the point’ of the hearing had been to expose Trump to another possible pathway to impeachment: obstructing Congress by not fully complying with a subpoena.
“This source pointed to what Democratic committee leadership saw as Lewandoski’s repeated refusal to answer direct questions; the baseless privilege constraints the White House put on Lewandowski’s testimony; and the two White House lawyers seated behind him who effectively enforced it.”
In other words, there was never a particular attempt to discover facts in a bipartisan way. This “investigation” has already reached its conclusion before it’s begun. Which is to say it’s it’s not an actual investigation, just a partisan hunting expedition.
Don’t misconstrue this as an endorsement of Lewandowski’s Senate run. This is a man who has baggage that goes far beyond just simply being involved with Trump or the Mueller investigation. Just ask Michelle Fields.
That said, this hearing proved the entire House “investigation” against Donald Trump is a farce. It’s already reached its conclusion, which is that Trump is guilty and everyone around him must a “hitman” or “bag man” — potentially both.
Why even hold the hearings, then? Just deliver the findings to the wider House and be done with it.
These things may be amusing, but five hours of Jerrold Nadler trying to pretend to be angry and only looking foolish probably isn’t going to engender sympathy for the Democratic cause.
If the Democrats want to turn Congress into a circus, they shouldn’t be surprised when men like Lewandowski decide to play the clown.
This hearing never should have happened, and the only people the Democrats have to blame for it going off the rails is themselves.